Is Using a .22 for Self-Defense the Next Big Trend?

November 20, 2020
Is Using a .22 for Self-Defense the Next Big Trend?

While “.22 caliber” can denote a wide variety of different cartridges, from the .22 Hornet — once the survival rifle caliber of choice for the U.S. Air Force — to the relatively new and high-powered .22 TCM, the most most common, by far, is the .22 Long Rifle.

Introduced by the Stevens Arms Co. in 1887 as a development of the .22 Long, the .22 Long Rifle has become the world’s most popular firearms cartridge, and there are numerous reasons for that. Among these are the following:

  • It’s inexpensive. Ammunition prices are currently distorted due to widespread panic-buying, but there was a time when a brick of 500 .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridges would cost the same as a 50-round box of 9×19mm FMJ.
  • Its recoil is negligible. Even in the lightest ultra-compact handguns, the recoil is manageable, and it’s practically indistinguishable in rifles. This is especially useful for youngsters who haven’t developed sufficient grip strength yet, or the elderly and infirm whose ability to control heavier calibers’ recoil has been compromised.
  • It’s surprisingly accurate. This is especially true with high-quality ammunition and when fired in a target handgun with a crisp, lightweight trigger and a set of high-visibility adjustable sights.
  • It’s fun. Many of us were introduced to the .22 Long Rifle cartridge in a pistol or rifle as a plinking round. We’d be able to spend hours at the range, shooting informal targets or targets of opportunity without worrying about the expense.

Alternatively, many of us grew up shooting .22 rifles at squirrels, rabbits, and other small game animals to fill the pot.

Self-Defense and Concealed Carry

.22 for Self-Defense

The question remains: is using a .22 for personal defense the next big trend? Several companies have sought to bring concealable .22-caliber pistols to the market to take advantage of the low cost, light recoil, and compact size. Among the high-capacity offerings, the KelTec P17 is a relatively compact handgun that, fully loaded, weighs less than a pound and sports a 16-round magazine (+1 in the chamber).

The Taurus TX-22, another newcomer, duplicates that capacity in a slightly heavier weapon.

The Glock 44 enables you to train in the use and handling of Glock centerfire handguns, such as the popular 19, without the recoil, muzzle blast, and associated cost of 9mm.

The CP33, also by KelTec, is less of a concealed-carry weapon and more of a competition piece, hence the name (Competition Pistol, 33 rounds). Still, if you want capacity, this is the .22 ultimate pistol.


When selecting a firearm for self-defense, functional reliability is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, the .22 Long Rifle cartridge, as with rimfire ammunition in general, is less reliable than centerfire due to the priming method — the explosive material is distributed inside and around the case rim. This renders it a somewhat questionable choice for self-defense.

Aside from the ignition system, rimmed cartridges are also more likely to experience failures to feed in semi-automatic firearms.

Revolvers — The More Reliable Option

While you can use high-quality ammunition to reduce the probability of misfires, if you’re intent on carrying a .22-caliber rimfire handgun for personal protection, many would advise the use of a double-action revolver, either DAO or DA/SA.

A revolver eliminates failure to feed as a concern. If the primer fails to detonate, you can simply squeeze the trigger a second time to index the cylinder, aligning a successive chamber with the barrel for a second shot.

In addition, because concealed-carry handguns, in general, are intended to be used at very close range, the revolver has another distinct advantage relative to the semi-automatic pistol. As the barrel is fixed and there is no reciprocating slide, pressing the muzzle against the body of your assailant can’t take the action out of the battery, so the weapon will remain operable.

A good example of a wheelgun chambered in .22 Long Rifle is the Smith & Wesson Model 317 AirLight Kit Gun, an 8-shot double- and single-action revolver with a stainless-steel barrel and aluminum-alloy frame.

Stopping Power

The concept of stopping power is controversial. Some regard it as a myth, but it’s generally accepted that, for a bullet to be effective, it should penetrate deeply enough to reach vital organs and major blood vessels, regardless of the angle of entry.

Even when a .22 does penetrate to a sufficient depth, however, the permanent wound cavity diameter is often unsatisfactory, and you shouldn’t expect .22-caliber hollow points, whether jacketed or exposed lead, to expand reliably in soft tissue. This means that shot placement, which was already the first criterion, becomes even more critical when choosing a rimfire cartridge as a defensive option.

The .22 isn’t limited to .22 Long Rifle. The .22 Magnum cartridge, also known as the .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire, is available in several lightweight, easy-to-conceal revolvers, such as the 7-shot snub-nosed Smith & Wesson Model 351 PD.

The .22 Magnum is significantly more powerful than the .22 Long Rifle but, while it will let you know that with a deafening blast and a bright flash, it still retains the low-recoil advantage of the more-diminutive cartridge.

The Home Defense Rifle

As a home defense cartridge in a rifle, such as the venerable Ruger 10/22 or AR-15-pattern Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22, the .22 Long Rifle does gain a noticeable increase in muzzle velocity and performance.

In a shoulder weapon, the .22 Long Rifle lends itself to lightweight, compact, and affordable rifles. These guns are often useful as companions to centerfire rifles for inexpensive range practice and familiarization firing.

If a household member needs to operate a firearm to repel a home invader, a .22 rifle is one of the best options available. Your child or elderly parent shouldn’t have any difficulty shouldering, aiming, or firing this weapon. Most semi-automatic rimfire handguns and rifles are blowback operated, but as rifles typically have heavier bolts, they require less stout recoil springs. As a result, charging a .22 rifle is comparatively easy.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re a private citizen interested in buying a .22-caliber handgun or rifle for personal defense or a law enforcement officer considering an alternative back-up gun, IFA Tactical offers the inventory and guidance you need to make the right decision. Give us a call at (586) 275-2176, and we’ll find out the best way to help you.

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